Monkfish won’t win any beauty contests, in fact it is so ugly that it is never sold with the head on – no-one would buy it! Despite it’s looks, it is delicious and never... more so than as in this easy recipe from my years in France, where it is simply roasted spiked with garlic in the same way as the French do a leg of lamb. Paired with caramelized fennel, cherry tomatoes and olives it is an easy Mediterranean feast!
Heat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet or large gratin dish with parchment paper.
Take the monkfish tail and with a small sharp paring knife make small slits into the flesh. Into each slit, place slivers of the garlic until used up. Set aside.
Trim the stalks and feathery leaves from the fennel. Save for another use. Cut the bulb into roughly 1/4 inch thick slices. Set aside.
In a large bowl, put 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the fennel slices and the cherry tomatoes. gently toss to coat. Place the fennel slices onto the prepared baking sheet spread into a single layer. Put onto a center shelf in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile brush the monkfish with half the remaining oil. Add the rest to a skillet and over a medium high flame quickly brown the fish on all sides to seal. It won''t get very dark.
Take the fennel out of the oven. Turn the heat down to 375F. Move the fennel to the edges and place the monkfish in the middle and drizzle any oil from the skillet over it. Add the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20 minutes then turn the tomatoes and the fish, basting with the pan juices. Add the olives.
Return to the oven and bake for 10 -15 minutes more or until the monkfish is firm and cooked through. Serve in slices with the vegetables spooned over it.
If you can get your monkfish tail with the bone in, so much the better, but in American fish markets it tends to be sold in fillets unless you order it ahead of time. If fillets are all you can get, lay two of them on top of each other: scatter the bottom fillet with 1/2 the garlic and lay the remaining fillet on top. Tie them together with kitchen twine – it should resemble a pork loin – then proceed with step 2.
Depending on the size and thickness of the monkfish fillets, if they are small you may want to shorten the cooking time to 15 minutes in Step 6 and to 8-10 minutes in step 7.